Garry Zigich, 26 of Toms River, was convicted in September of killing his fifteen-year old cousin. He appeared this week in Ocean County Superior Court for his sentencing hearing, which resulted in him receiving 50 years in New Jersey State Prison.
Zigich’s conviction followed a guilty plea to one count of first-degree murder. Pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office recommended a maximum of 50 years in prison. The defendant must spend at least 42 years in prison under the No Early Release Act (NERA) before applying for parole. If he had taken the risk of going to trial, Zigich could have received a life term.
The conviction stems from an incident that occurred on March 18, 2008 in Toms River. Zigich had returned to his family’s home after enjoying some St. Patrick’s Day festivities. When he got home, Zigich and his 15-year old female cousin got into an argument. Zigich then strangled her to death with his bare hands, stripped her, and attempted to hide her body. Zigich then checked himself into a mental hospital in Red Bank, but later confessed to police.
In a pre-trial ruling, the judge held that the State could use Zigich’s confession as evidence. Zigich may still appeal that decision, and, if successful, may withdraw his plea and proceed to trial. It is unclear whether he has retained a New Jersey criminal appeal lawyer.